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Industry news: About Judge Cote, Watermarks battle piracy, and a publishing cooperative

August 17, 2013

The curious case of Judge Denise Cote

If you look the picture of her quickly, you might think she resembles Glenn Close, and if you follow the publishing industry, Judge Denise Cote is difficult to ignore. Judge Cote recently found against Apple in the e-book collusion case. Although the penalties she imposed on Apple and the negotiated settlements with the five publishers were “less draconian” than the Department of Justice’s proposed remedies, according to this article in CNN Money, she picks her winners and losers early in the case and it’s often not a mystery which is which before the end of the case. In her remarks about the case, she noted that the defendants didn’t admit wrongdoing and were essentially without remorse for their deeds. The writer, Philip Elmer-Dewitt, references the attorney for HarperCollins, Shep Goldfein, noting that each of the defendants has an antitrust compliance department and that it’s typical for companies not to admit wrongdoing in cases, even when they lose, typically for tax and other reasons. The rest of the article is a series of web-based reviews about Judge Cote in web-based rating site The Robing Room, typically negative. In 25 reviews, the average rating was 4.5 out of ten. (Only 7 of the 25 ratings were 8 or above.)

What this means to you: Probably not a lot. And it’s entirely possible that Apple and the publishers are indeed guilty of collusion. An the Robing Room appears to take your word for it if you say you’re an attorney. In other words, her ratings could be influenced by anyone, including employees at Apple or the publishers–or that the favorable reviews came from Amazon employees. There’s no way to know. It’s also worth noting that the column reviewing Judge Cote is called Apple 2.0. While that doesn’t necessarily indicate an bias in Apple’s favor, you can’t rule it out. However, Judge Cote is also presiding over class action lawsuit against Penguin and Author Solutions. Her influence on the publishing industry right now is large enough to merit attention.

Dutch e-book merchants add watermarks to trace ebooks back to buyers

If you by an ebook in the Netherlands and you post it to a torrent website, there’s a decent chance they’ll be able to trace the purchase back to you. According to Appnewser (a sister publication of GalleyCat), Dutch e-book vendors are adding unique watermarks to the books they sell. After the sale, they’ll share the watermark and buyer information with BREIN, an anti-piracy group in Europe. If BREIN catches someone posting protected information on the Interwebs, it could theoretically sue them. The privacy concerns are tempered by the fact that customers will be notified of the data sharing before they make a purchase.

What this means to you: There are two mindsets regarding digital intellectual property: the open-source argument, which holds that digital content should be shared free of charge, and the more traditional view that says if you use digital content without paying for it, that’s stealing. TOR has removed digital-rights management software, which prevents unlimited copying, from its e-books. Other publishers have not. This approach seems to be a good compromise. It would still allow you to basically give an e-book to a friend, but it would catch you if you posted it to a public server for the entire world to enjoy free of charge.

The story of a successful publishing co-op

Although there are plenty of variations, the approach for publishing seems to take two routes–traditional versus self-publishing. How about a cooperative model where all the authors work together to create a publisher for their books? At least one co-op is fairly successful. The Book View Café features books from well-known authors including Ursula Le Guin, Vonda N. McIntyre, Patricia Rice, Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff, and Lois Gresh. According to director Chris Dolley, the authors are truly a co-operative. Some of the authors are editors, some are graphic artists or can handle book layout, and some can handle publishing. Right now, Book View Cafe has 200 titles, all e-books, but plans on expanding to print on demand.

What this means to you: You can apply to join by contacting them, but they don’t accept submissions and you must be published by a “traditional, advance-and-royalty paying print publisher.” For more information, check out their FAQs.

 

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